From my new book, currently being written. Hope to have it completed by next summer. It is in rough draft. It has not been edited as yet.
Writing like this gives me a nice and welcome respite from the Covid 19 madness. I can escape to my own world of past adventures and excitement without a care in the world.
Nigel was about 33 years old, to my 22. A professional sailor as he claims to be. Hired by Sadao to help him sail and deliver Akaru-Hime to Japan. He and Sadao met each other in and around the maritime bazaars and marinas of Vancouver Harbour. My sister Pat did not take too well to Nigel and I think the feelings were mutual. Nevertheless Nigel offered to help Sadao fulfill his dream and for a modest sum would help him in his quest. So off they went. Unfortunately, Sadao had to give up on his dream of sailing to Japan but had asked Nigel to carry on. At least deliver the boat to his homeland. Nigel agreed but with tits gone and the other stoners having departed, Nigel was left in a quandary. No one to accompany him. And that’s where I came in. Crew to Nigel’s skipper. Adventure I guess. Here I come but I didn’t have a clue. No worries as it would be some time before we left. It was only July after all.
After a few hours of idle and uncomfortable shit-chat and a few beers, Nigel excused himself and left. Told me he was going to sup with friends of his. Am I not invited I thought to myself? Guess not and I didn’t feel it was my right to ask. Spontaneity, openness, friendliness were not Brit traits. Rudeness was. Especially to us colonials, as Nigel so righteously referred to me as. So I kept to myself and fell asleep in short order. I must have been exhausted but then I woke up after a few hours. It was still light out, just so, but fell asleep again.
That first night of sleep was a restless one for me. A mixture of excitement, of fear, of trepidation and anxiety. I tossed and turned on the quarter berth settee that was only about two feet wide and about six feet long. My mattress was of a green foam of about four inches depth. As it turned out I had one hard and sore ass in the morning. My sides were aching too. Just not used to the confines of this lower deck cabin berth. I think I fell onto the deck a few times during the night. I would have to have a talk with Nigel about these sleeping arrangements. Yet I never did see Nigel that first night. He had gone off somewhere on his own. To sup he said. With some friends. I wasn’t invited. A stranger in a strange land, paradise or not. Alone. Perhaps to see a girlfriend although I doubt it as he was a slovenly chap as Brits go. Bad teeth, a succinct odour about him that was not pleasant and bad breath to boot. Fagin? Yes Fagin it would be in my mind’s eye as with his long rangily (is that a word?) brown hair that was stoked with bits and flecks of grey, falling down from the sides of his large head to his shoulders from the roots of the longest forehead I had ever seen. A top gallant of a man’s crown to say the least. Coupled with his badly tailored shorts that were held up and cinched by the smallest of a rough hewned hawser, a stained brown, long sleeved shirt with yellow sweat patches on the undersides by his arm pits, he looked the part of that sly street urchin of Dickensian lore. He had beady eyes, was of the colour of minimal or faded blue. Yes Fagin it is. Fagin he would always be to me.
Nigel was very condescending to me that first afternoon and I felt that he thought of himself as one possessed of a superior intellect, at least in his own mind’s perspective of his world. Typical male Brit, as I can say this now, as I look back on those days given my future stink, er stint, on exchange with the Royal Navy in the late 1980s. Yes I did survive those carefree halcyon days of 1973 and 1974 with Nigel in Hawaii, on Oahu, at the Ala Moana Yacht Club, near to and adjacent to Waikiki and Honolulu. I survived as best I could, given the taunts and verbal abuse that I would soon suffer, as you shall soon see, under the tutelage of one Nigel Hawthorne Filtness, Esq, delusional British Citizen of the now defunct British Empire.
As I brushed the sleep out of my eyes on that first morning I took stock of my surroundings. I was asleep on the berth on the left, er port side, of the boat, about the middle, er midships, I would guess. To my rear, aft, toward the rear, er stern of the sailboat, lay another berth. I could tell as that space was adorned with the same lime green cushioned settee as the one I had slept on. Ahead of me, forward, was a wall, erm bulkhead, that formed a separation of sorts from what they refer to as a “V” berth, all the way to the front, erm bow, of the sailboat. Don’t call it, er her, a ship whatever you do. It is a sailboat and while it may have a middle or an amidships area it is best to refer to this as midpoint or just nothing at all. Just “there” or port / starboard “here or there and everywhere the same.”
Actually the settee that I slept on was part of the “main salon” or living lounge area of the boat. My sleeping area was to be the port quarter-berth that ran under the port after deck topsides and the topside cockpit area. I do not know why they call this the cockpit. This quarter berth duplicates itself on the right, erm starboard side, of the boat as well. But just forward of that is the galley; forward of that is the dining table; and forward of that but separated by a bulkhead is that of a shower / shitter combination. Another bulkhead separates the shitter / shower with the forward “V” berth. And at the forward end of the “V” berth is another compartment separated by bulkheads holding rope and lines, erm cordage, spare sails, the anchor, anchor chain or rode and various bits and pieces. Don’t ask me why they call this a “rode” which is in reality the leading edge back from the anchor to the boat: a combination of chain and line? Bits and pieces are those things that really don’t have a nautical name or purpose. Boat junk really but if the boat was to sink this floating debris or junk would be called “flotsam.”
Just aft of this compartment, on the ceiling, erm deckhead, is a opening, erm hatch, that can be opened or closed such that sails or cordage can be passed safely to and from the topside, bow area, forward part of the sailboat or foc’sle, especially in bad and inclement weather.
Now the passageway from the ladder going topside from the cabin up to the “V” berth is called the companionway. To the rear or aft of the ladder, still below deck, which can be removed, is a door, erm hatch opening it of which exposes the diesel engine. A simple two stroke reciprocating engine, or an “up and downer” as sailors so affectionately like to call it. There are more modern variations and models of marine engines of course but this one is of a simpler antiquated, inexpensive (cheap) nature. I say simple but try to work on this mechanical plumber’s nightmare in a confined space such as this sailboat. Madness. Each and every sailor in any marina or yacht club on earth will know those boats with such a contraption: knowing this by the characteristic foul and blue nature of the language that is emitted from the confines of the engineering spaces of such a boat. A space that only a midget could love.
Across from the starboard side shower / shitter combination, on the port side aft of the “V” berth forward are a few lockers for the storage of foul weather gear, jackets, sea boots, shirts, pants…clothes. Likewise there are lockers under all of the settees for clothes or non perishable foodstuffs. The galley is well equipped although very small and cramped. Above it are more lockers for galley wares, cleaning material and the like. To the right and just aft of the galley are the electrical fuses and switches for the night navigational lights and the VHF radio. Of course in the open ocean the radio is useless. Used only for entering or leaving harbour, international distress or ship to ship, sailboat to sailboat communications if within a line of sight distance from one another. No GPS, satellite navigation or communications for us. No, no, no. In those days we were still tied to the old traditional sextant, Admiralty Tables, the Nautical Almanac, Bowditch perhaps, Norrie’s Tables, the formidable HSO volumes, Sailing Directions, Tide Tables, a good and reliable time piece and of course charts of a Mercator projection. Onerous? Yes. Complicated? Yes. Time consuming? You bet, but at the same time a fairly accurate and dependable art this navigation by the stars. And whatever methodology used: Admiralty, Bowditch or oral tradition and song, this is an art as old as the Polynesian culture and knowledge and their verbal historical account and way-finding techniques. Amazing.
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More next week. That is if ya find this interesting. Let me know by leaving a comment or two.